Cut Line: Struggles for Tiger and the West Coast swing


What could Jason Day accomplish if he avoids the doctor’s office this season? When will Tiger Woods return to his office? And, in rhetorical observation, is there a better office for a professional golfer than this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am? There are more questions than answers in this week’s edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

A new Day. In 2007, Jason Day spent much of the season dealing with a right wrist injury. In ’13 the diagnosis was an ankle ailment. Last season it was a left thumb issue.

In short, Day’s career has ebbed and flowed in lock step with his periodic visits to the disabled list, which makes Sunday’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open compelling on many fronts.

His playoff victory over J.B. Holmes, Harris English and Scott Stallings was the Australian’s third on the PGA Tour, but more importantly it was his first without a medical asterisk, like the one that hovered over him last year after winning the WGC-Match Play Championship.

Day began 2015 as close to 100 percent as he has ever been.

“That’s all we wanted. At the end of the year we sat down and asked, ‘What are we going to do?’ We can’t have another year like last year being injured,” Day’s caddie/swing coach Col Swatton told Cut Line.

“He was scheduled to play in Australia, but he broke those obligations, rehabbed his back for three months basically and we said one year where he’s fully healthy is going to be a big year and this is the start.”

You, me and the bay of Monterey. Some even-par rounds are better than others. Consider Mark Hubbard’s card on Thursday, three birdies, a bogey, a double bogey ... and a proposal.

The PGA Tour rookie proposed to his girlfriend, Meghan McCurley, adjacent to the 18th green at Pebble Beach following his first round.

Although Hubbard’s opening round wasn’t exactly what he’d hoped for – the 25-year-old was tied for 99th after Round 1 – the day was an unqualified success nonetheless. McCurley said yes.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Day-to-day. Not sure which is more troubling, Tiger Woods’ withdrawal last week after just 11 holes at Torrey Pines with an ailing back or his announcement on Wednesday that he won’t play the Honda Classic unless his game “is tournament-ready.”

The good news is that his deactivated glutes were not a cause to return to either the doctor’s office or the MRI machine.

“Between his trainer and his therapist that was easily detectable,” Mark Steinberg, Woods’ manager with Excel Sports, told Cut Line. “He started getting worked on immediately. It was apparent everything was intact and he was resting pretty comfortably.”

The bad news is he’s resigned himself to finding his game behind his South Florida iron curtain before he clocks back into work. Whenever and wherever that may be is a mystery, even to Woods.

Cold play. Along with the U.S. Open’s first trip to the Pacific Northwest this year, has come an entirely new set of challenges for those charged with challenging the world’s best this June.

Chambers Bay, the municipal layout hard on the shores of Puget Sound, will also be the first course to host America’s national championship with fine fescue grass.

“Fine fescue is a very unique grass. It's a grass that plays firm and fast because it doesn't require as much water, it's not a sticky grass, so the ball does tend to skid on it,” said U.S. Golf Association executive director Mike Davis.

Fine fescue also stops growing around November, which has prompted the USGA to dial back play at Chambers Bay.

“We have taken precautions, and eliminated some of the play, and in particular two greens (Nos. 12 and 15) we've backed play completely off, just to make sure we're in good shape going into the Open,” Davis said last week during the USGA’s annual meeting.

Nursing an upcoming U.S. Open venue through the winter is nothing new and Davis pointed out the USGA had a similar “winter care” program leading into last year’s championship at Pinehurst.

Still, it’s a little disconcerting to hear about closed putting surfaces and reduced play some four months before a golf course is subjected to the game’s most revealing microscope.

Tweet of the week

While we agree with Spieth’s assessment of the Monterey Peninsula’s position atop the American golf scene, he was quickly called out by Tour rookie Justin Thomas

Missed Cut

West Coast woes. Blame it on the Tour’s wraparound schedule and the increased strength of the European Tour’s Middle Eastern swing, but then having ready-made culprits doesn’t make things any better for West Coast events that are starting to look like split-squad spring training games.

Just three of the top 10 players in the world are in the field this week at Pebble Beach and tournament officials had to dip all the way into the circuit’s “past champions” category to fill the tee sheet.

If every event is special none of them are, and given the non-stop nature of professional golf it’s natural that some events will have better fields than others. But when an event with the history, and unrivaled golf course line up, of the Clambake struggles to attract the game’s biggest names it may be time to take a hard look at the illness, just not the symptoms.